Brescia student informing diners about menu options


By Communications Staff
Friday, February 12, 2010
Brescia University College Foods & Nutritional Sciences student Elena Usdenski wants diners to make informed choices when they order their meal at a London restaurant.
Usdenski’s master’s research project proposes the development of an interactive web-based map that will provide nutritional details about menu items and other pertinent information about London restaurants; the website will be hosted by Brescia and is expected to launch this summer.
Elena Usdenski
“We are doing this to educate the public about the nutritional content of menu items and will be doing nutritional analysis of three signature dishes for participating restaurants,” Usdenski says.
The timing of her project couldn’t be better. Health advocates are backing an Ontario private member’s bill at Queen’s Park that would require chain restaurants with annual revenue of greater than $5 million to limit trans fats and provide calorie labels on menus.
A survey is being sent out to more than 350 privately-owned restaurants inviting them to participate in Usdenski’s project. The survey asks for information about the restaurant’s atmosphere, accessibility – including which bus routes they are on, pricing, and lots of information about the meals served – including portion sizes, nutritional content, and how the food is prepared. The surveys are also being sent to the head offices of national franchises with London locations in mid-February. 
In a cover letter Usdenski will send with the survey to restaurant owners, she notes that according to the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), more than 80 per cent of Ontarians and 96 per cent of municipal leaders in Ontario agree with the OMA’s call to action on menu labeling. The legislation would require calorie contents to be listed adjacent to the items on menus and menu boards at chain restaurants and school cafeterias across the province.
Each participating restaurant will have the option to select which information is posted on the Brescia website. Usdenski is curious to see if providing this information affects people’s dining choices.
“We’ll see if this changes the public’s purchasing habits and if the public will demand more nutritional meals on the menu.”
She expects that while some people will continue to make less nutritional choices because dining out is a treat, others may make more healthy choices once they are better informed.

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